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Do Birds Enjoy Being Petted?

Nicole Cosgrove

Just because you feel like cuddling up with your pet doesn’t mean that they enjoy the contact. Birds are unique animals with particular personalities. Some parrots love the contact and attention they get from their owners, while others prefer to be left alone. If your pet bird isn’t immediately interested in your pats, try training them to establish trust and get them used to your touch. Making them feel comfortable and safe is the most important aspect of the petting process.

Bird species like parrots, parakeets, and budgies are more likely to allow touching than other birds. As you continue to practice this behavior, keep your training sessions short and pay attention to their body language so that you can stop if they start feeling overwhelmed.divider-bird

Tips for Safely Petting a Bird

Sun Conure on tree
Image Credit: BioBush, Wikimedia Commons

Before you learn how to pet your bird the right way, keep in mind some birds are individuals. Some bird lovers spend months trying to get their birds to accept their touch without success. Just how not all humans like contact, neither do all birds.

If trying to pet a bird that isn’t your own, understand that most birds require some level of trust before letting anybody get close to them. A complete stranger isn’t going to have a lot of success with receiving affection from them. If you do own the bird, give them some time to warm up to you and be willing to accept their boundaries.

1. Keep a Calm Demeanor

Green Cheek Conure
Image Credit: bluepaints, Pixabay

Birds are sensitive to the emotions of others. Keep yourself calm as you approach them, and make sure that they see you as you come closer. Speak to your pet bird in a soft voice before reaching your hand out. Make slow movements, so you don’t spook them. The more they warm up to your presence, the higher chance of success.


2. Assess the Bird’s Body Language

Bird body language can tell you a lot about how to approach a situation. Birds communicate in a lot of nonverbal ways, so you have to watch how they react. Stiff bodies and staring eyes are a good indication that the bird is uncomfortable. Weary birds may also lead away from you or push you away, attempt to bite you, or make a lot of noise.

Birds that close their eyes, turn their heads, or fluff their feathers are ones that feel more comfortable. These are signs that the bird trusts you and is comfortable with you as you approach.


3. Know Where to Pet Them

As tempting as their feathery, fluffy chests are, you don’t want to pet a bird below the neck. For many species, this is the sign of a breeding ritual. Try to keep your fingers around the back, wings, or tail to keep behavioral problems to a minimum.


4. Start at the Bird’s Beak

A bird experiences a lot through its beak. These are tools they use to taste, climb, feel, and crack open hard objects. Start training your bird for petting by gently touching their beak and allowing them to get used to you.


5. Go in the Direction of the Feathers

Birds have feathers that travel in one direction. Going against the natural direction of their feathers could hurt the birds and turn them off from future petting sessions. Always move your fingers in the same direction and use a gentle touch to show them that you won’t hurt them.


6. Increase Time as they Relax

Start petting your bird in very short increments and only increase the time after they start to become more relaxed around you. When you move away from the beak, start at the back of their head or under their beaks without moving below the neck.


7. Remain Patient

Birds require a bit of time to get to know you and trust you. The more they feel safe, the more likely they are to allow you to pet them. Over time, and after establishing a bond, some birds have been known to love snuggles and prefer to spend time by their owner’s side.divider-bird

Final Thoughts

While it can be a little heartbreaking, some bird owners have to accept that they have a bird that is full of independence and enjoys its own space. Affection is nice, but not as nice as knowing that our pets are at their happiest. You can always work on making your pet more comfortable with handling them. Even if they don’t tolerate it for long periods, it is possible to gain enough trust that they’ll tolerate it for quick bouts.


Featured Image Credit: klickblick ,Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.